Uncompromizing insanity 

24 January 2009 tbs.pm/1011

Apologies, people of Gaza – the BBC is a bit jumpy lately

It is sometimes said, rightly or wrongly, that the BBC and the Guardian newspaper are a good fit. The Corporation certainly does quite a bit of recruitment advertising with that paper. So, a poll in the Guardian saying (by four to one at the time of writing) that the BBC was wrong to refuse to broadcast the Gaza Crisis Appeal by the Disaster Emergency Committee should carry more weight than most.

The Corporation gave two reasons for deciding not to run it. There was uncertainty as to whether or how the aid would reach its location, and senior management felt uneasy about whether it could be misinterpreted as expressing a partisan opinion on the vexed Israel/Palestinian conflict. Well, aid has not always had a smooth journey to its destination, true, but since when is that the concern of those raising funds? You do your bit, say your prayers and hope for the best. As for impartiality, the approach of the aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières is about right: it goes where it is needed, and to hell with politics.

Ironically, at least to those news junkies among us, the appeal is getting more publicity that it otherwise would; to that extent, you might ask if the BBC knew all along what it was doing. Bearing in mind, however, that, sadly, if ratings data are anything to go by, the majority do not follow the news that keenly, the BBC’s decision is likely to mean that this appeal’s reach is likely to be far narrower than it could be.

It is another spectacular, and totally unnecessary, own goal by the Corporation.

Update: ITV and Channel 4 have now broken ranks and decided to go ahead with the broadcast. Tony Benn thinks that “before sundown” the BBC will perform, once again, a volte face. We shall see.

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